By MICHAEL MROZIAK
Niagara Gazette — NIAGARA FALLS — One thing you'll learn by attending Niagara Power games this season, no lead big or small is ever a safe one.
The Niagara Power surged for seven runs in the third inning and held an 8-2 lead early, but the Olean Oilers countered with three late inning bursts that wiped out the Power's lead and sent the visitors on to a 14-9 win over Niagara at Sal Maglie Stadium in New York Collegiate Baseball League action Thursday night.
The first inning featured more batters being hit than getting hits. Travis Laitar, getting his first start of the season for the Power after spending the bulk of the season working in relief roles, hit two of the first three batters he faced. Niagara got out of the situation by forcing second batter Austin Johnson to pop out, catching leadoff hitter Tim Ravel trying to steal second and striking out Joe Chittester.
In the bottom of the first, Power outfielder Scott Gillespie was also hit by a pitch by Olean's starting pitcher, Blair Lakso. It was the only way Niagara could get on base in the inning, as Johnny Blue Craig struck out, Perry Rigby popped out and Buddy McCoy was put out at first.
In all, seven batters were hit by pitches before the game was done.
Both teams got on the scoreboard in the second inning. Olean's first batter in the second, Mike Fahrman, singled to get on base and scored later on Casey Gibson's single. The Power tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second when Jimmy Landes got aboard and was late brought home off Alex Lagos' base hit.
In the top of the third inning, the Oilers' Austin Johnson hit a ball that landed in front of Niagara left fielder Cameron Wilkie and took an odd hop, getting past Wilkie and allowing Johnson to sprint all the way to third. Lee Grosscup's base hit then allowed Johnson to come home with the go-ahead run.
The Power got on a roll in the bottom of the third, with a little help from Lakso who, after the Power loaded up the bases, walked home two of Niagara's seven runs. The home team went through twelve batters in the third, with Gillespie, McCoy and and Landes getting two at-bats.
Niagara conceded a run in the fourth inning but kept the Oilers from scoring in the fifth inning.
However, with Laitar replaced in the top of the sixth by Kenneth DeCook, the Oilers began chipping away at what seemed like a safe lead. Mike Pascarella walked to begin what would be a three-run rally. The following batter, Gibson, doubled to advance Pascarella. Both men would score runs as would Kyle Mann.
Olean scored three more runs in the seventh inning, including the go-ahead run. Gibson tripled, then scored when Julien Plana reached first safely on an error. Tim Ravel, who got on base after being hit by a pitch, also scored off a double by Johnson to put the Oilers ahead, 9-8.
They weren't done. The following inning, Olean racked up five runs to not only complete their comeback but silence the 292 fans in attendance.
While Niagara got a run in the bottom of the eighth, it was all but certain Olean would go on to victory when the Oilers center fielder made a diving catch to rob Cameron Wilkie of a potential rally-starting base hit.
Dalton Scarborough picked up the win for the Oilers (21-11), whose swagger only built up by the bottom of the eighth inning, with the players stepping just outside their dugout to hoot and howl in delight with every hard-fought out or additional run scored.
Sam Whim took the loss for the Power, who lost their third straight and fell to 11-22 on the season.
Niagara continues its homestand tonight, hosting the Hornell Dodgers beginning at 7 p.m.